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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

17 Nov 1999: Viljoen, Constand

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POM     General, let's start today with – you had talked about you were having research done by Larry Schlemmer. Has he come back with any preliminary findings or is that still in the works?

CV     No, we've got that. That is still embargoed but I will give it to you. I haven't got it on paper but I will be able to make it available from my notes which I've taken from Laurie Schlemmer. Here's a survey that I did, have you seen this?

POM     No I have not seen that.

CV     But that's in Afrikaans, it's written in Afrikaans and it was done by my own paper, Frontnuus. I asked them, please help me with your opinion, why did the support for the Freedom Front dramatically reduce in the 1999 election and then they said: Viljoen is not a political leader; General Viljoen is too militarily orientated; self-determination is not important at the moment. Now this is: no reason at all; possible; strong; very strong. Four categories. The volkstaat policy is not attainable. We will never reach the volkstaat idea. The people do not wish to have another trek, they want to stay in the area where they are staying at the moment. The Afrikaner is not seeking separation in a volkstaat, we would like to stay where we are. The FF is antique, outmoded. The FF moves too close to the ANC. The FF will not reach anything in parliament because Afrikaner politics are no longer relevant in the new SA. The people don't know what the FF is doing at the moment and there was lack of communication. The division between Afrikaners is a reason. It was now necessary to vote for bigger parties to prevent a two thirds majority. The FF is not active enough on the local level and the FF has not done enough for education, job creation and the protection of languages. Now this is just one reaction from the man, and I will come back to this now.

POM     Is this a summary from your own notes of the research conducted by Schlemmer?

CV     Here I have Markdata, which is Schlemmer, and this is this one here, this Frontnuus thing and there is remarkable agreement in the whole situation. Very important is one, importance is two, relatively important and not important at all. In other words very important, it was a great influence on the poor election result, important, relatively important and virtually no influence at all. Now this is in Afrikaans. Do you want me to write? Maybe I should make a copy of this. First one, practicability of the volkstaat ideal: it is regarded as a very important reason by both Frontnuus and Markdata.  Afrikaner dividedness: the FF has not done enough to fix that. That is the strongest reason. There's one there in Frontnuus and it's one there.

POM     That's the strongest divisions within the Afrikaner community itself or within your party?

CV     The point is the people were fed up with party political divisions and the FF had not done enough to address this issue of working together within Afrikanerdom. This is also a very important reason from Markdata, from Schlemmer, but it hasn't come out so strongly, mine was a very quick initiative. The Afrikaner has accepted his minority status but he wishes to have a very strong role in central politics. You see what I'm saying? He accepts that he's a minority and he accepts that being a minority his relative influence should be reduced. For example, on the issue of the volkstaat he doesn't wish to be part of a volkstaat, he wants to be part of the whole of South Africa and that is why Markdata has given this as a number one. Here in the Frontnuus we say this is number three. Lack of focus on socio-economic issues, both rather important. Outmodedness of the FF, Markdata is very strong on this. We disagree totally so there's a clash in this whole idea between my own and -   Then this is also another important point, and that is the Afrikaner has always included his culture as part of his politics and the FF is a party for identity politics. You get three kinds of politics, identity politics, value politics and normal interest politics, and the FF has concentrated on identity politics and the Afrikaner in the meantime has decided that his language, culture and so on, he would rather privatise that, remove that from the political arena, privatise that and practise it by himself, but he wants to be part of the political issue and that's the reason why they switched over to the Democratic Party which a total Afrikaner unfriendly party.

POM     So it's like the Afrikaner wants to become part of mainstream politics rather than single issue politics?

CV     That's right, yes. Self-determination: unachievable, important reason, and then to these people it's relatively important, so it is still an important reason. Poor communication within the FF: very strongly given by the Frontnuus and also emphasised by Markdata. Party dividedness: also rather important on both sides, agreement on that. Lack of focus on political issues: also very important. The FF focused mainly on the volkstaat and self-determination and according to them self-determination as a political wish was pretty low down on the wishing list.  There was within the party a very strong feeling that our policy of constructiveness towards the ANC government had switched the electorate against us but this is not important at all. Also within the Frontnuus this is also not important. Then there was also an accusation against me, that I had failed to be a good political leader and that is 4/4, also totally unimportant.

POM     So, where do you go from here?

CV     I am going to give you now a copy of a letter which is not completed yet, that I have written to Jacob Zuma. You see this is not finished yet. This is a letter that I am writing now to the Deputy President in which I give a much more broad summary of the reasons because I only give the reasons that really affect the ANC. You can read through this. I had a meeting with him some time ago and my problem is at the moment that the FF has shrunk to that stage where the ANC rightfully can say they will no longer discuss self-determination with you because you are so small that you do not represent the Afrikaner people. This is an important point for me to know, whether this is the view of the ANC and whether they will still honour the 23 April 1994 Accord, which I don't think I've given you a copy of, have I?

POM     No.

CV     Let us go through this letter quickly. I say the main reason is that there has been a change, that is now not the Frontnuus, that is Markdata, Schlemmer: –

     "The main reason is that there has been a change in the political market between 1994 and 1999. The FF support in 1994 was reasonably strong within Afrikanerdom but when it became clear that the FF did not deliver on the practical aspects of self-determination the Afrikaner people lost confidence in the FF. This was in the last two years. It was also determined that after accepting the reality of a minority position the Afrikaner felt strongly about maintaining a position of influence in the bigger political arena. The current political issues became priority to them and the general belief was that the longer term ideals of self-determination would do nothing to alleviate the pressures from the day to day focus points such as crime, affirmative action, education problems, etc.

     "The second reason: The Afrikaner had then decided that the support for a growing party such as the DP would be advantageous and would give greater security. The strong 'hit back' theme of Tony Leon appealed to them, the NNP was not considered as a viable option.

     "Thirdly, the research also pointed out that because of the poor development of the concept of pluralism in our country at this stage, the time was not right for more ethnic based concept that is connected with the long term ideals of the FF.

     "Fourthly, the concept of self-determination, therefore, was lower on the wishing list of Afrikaner voters. The political climate at the time of the election, therefore, negatively influenced the FF yet in the poll 70% of Afrikaners are still of the opinion that the Afrikaner should receive more self-determination powers countrywide. The only problem was that at the moment of the election the Afrikaner experienced anxiety around the short term political issues resulting from the transition."

POM     What issues would they be, short term?

CV     Crime, education, affirmative action, jobs, economic development, access to capital, the fact that no more tenders were given to white people but all tenders all go now to black people as part of the affirmative action policy, so those points.

     "Regarding my own position, I entered politics (you said, where do I go now?) in order to find some consensus on peaceful co-existence between black people and my own tribe. Although certain aspects are singled out as positive the basis from which I operated has been eroded. With my present support base I certainly cannot claim to speak on behalf of all Afrikaners or even a substantial support group such as in the 1994 elections. This has some implications on a joint effort that had been started between us and the ANC in 1993 to address the conflict potential. There is also the question as to the status of the 23 April accord on self-determination. It would seem advisable that in SA the concept of pluralism and solutions to its problems have not had to be of high priority. The practical implementation of measures to deal with minority rights could kick off with the commission in terms of Section 185 of the constitution. Section 235 will no doubt also be introduced in the concept of minority rights.

     "I would like to have your indication (this is where you say, what is the way forward?) as to whether the ANC would be prepared to continue negotiations with the FF with regard to the 23 April Accord on the issue of self-determination. I expect of my party to probably prefer to remain a party specialising in self-determination and minority rights but that would not serve any purpose if you as a majority party regard the FF as such a small party that negotiation would be futile. In such a case it would be better to join hands with other parties.

     "This also raises the question as to who can be consulted by the government on behalf of the Afrikaner. This needs to be discussed and we can make suggestions in this regard."

     What I have in mind is to say to the government I have to admit that I cannot claim to really represent the Afrikaners but I will gather a number of bodies, such as the intermediate Afrikaner Cultural Council, the Federation of Afrikaner Cultural Organisations, and so on. I will get them all and I will be a point in parliament through which these organisations can work. If that is acceptable to the ANC that means I do not speak only on behalf of the 127,000 voters who voted for me but I also speak on behalf of such cultural bodies within Afrikanerdom.

     "Then a clear indication from the ANC as to their position on the concept of minority rights, self-determination, could bring clarity. Apart from constitutionalising the concept in 1996 together with the unanimous support of all participating parties, the ANC seems to resist implementation of practical measures. May I quote the example of the previous Premier of Mpumalanga, Matthews Phosa, who started the committee to study the application for self-determination in his province? This is headed by Advocate Mens of my party. Since the departure of Mr Phosa, however, the initiative is dead. We really need to have an absolute honest position from both sides of the previous negotiating forum, that is the ANC and FF, otherwise it becomes a waste of public money.  May I suggest that the forum meets as soon as possible to discuss the way forward? There  are many other aspects that we as a party have to attend to (you will see from this here what we have to attend to) but we need clarity on this line function, the self-determination, minority rights, etc. line function of the FF because without hurting this effort - " (I was going to say then – the FF is really off on a tangent and we're not achieving our main purpose in life).

     So now what happened? We had a poor result in the election. There was a panic stations situation within the FF. I carried out the Frontnuus opinion poll. I travelled countrywide to consult many Afrikaners and political analysts on this whole situation and subsequent to that I carried out the rather expensive Schlemmer investigation. So I now have the reasons why the FF had done so poorly, why the results were so poor in the election, and having got this now I have to now convince my party that those were the reasons and what is the strategy to move on? But before I can move on with that strategy I have to have clarity from the ANC. If the ANC tells me, to hell with minority rights, to hell with self-determination, then the FF would rather join hands with some other party and be a bigger opposition to the ANC and give them hell in all respects and then also move outside the parliament, which would probably be my function, and start with a sort of a resistance from outside building up towards forcing the ANC that this would be necessary.

POM     When you say 'resistance' you mean protests?

CV     Yes. Resistance can be done in many ways, you're aware of that. The point is you always start with the least dangerous type of resistance and you try to convince them. My problem with self-determination is that I have to prove that my people want self-determination. I cannot claim something such as self-determination if my people are not interested in that. Fortunately the Schlemmer poll has proved that 70% of them say the Afrikaner needs to have more self-determination powers countrywide. So it's more than two thirds of the Afrikaners saying this. This is, as far as I'm concerned, substantial that we want self-determination. The question is, how do we achieve that self-determination? I have an idea that without some form of pressure on the ANC we will never achieve it.

POM     And what form of self-determination?

CV     What form of self-determination?

POM     Yes, whether it's territorial, cultural.

CV     Again the form of self-determination is not only for the FF and that is where I am at loggerheads with my own party at the moment. There are a number of, well I would say very close to half, between 40% and 45% of my party, of the controlling part of my party, reckoning that we should now stick back to only the volkstaat idea. I say no, self-determination is what the Afrikaner wants. It is not what is prescribed for the Afrikaner. We can give the Afrikaner some direction because not all Afrikaners are really au fait with the principle of self-determination but for us now to say that only the volkstaat ideal should be furthered in future, I think that is all wrong, I will not be prepared to do that. I want to further the whole concept of self-determination, including the idea of a volkstaat.

POM     What I get from you in summary is that the Afrikaner wants his status as a minority to be recognised and his culture and language and institutions to be protected in that regard, while in the meantime being part of the mainstream politics of one SA.

CV     That's right, exactly, this is it. The Afrikaner is adamant about this. Apparently the view is that they have built up this country and they are a very important part and the blacks cannot rule the country without the support of the Afrikaners and if they do we're not only the milking cows, we'd also like to have a say in the control of the country. That is more or less the purpose of the Afrikaners.

POM     Is it your view from dealing with the ANC that if you appear to pose a threat, i.e. if you appear to have power they will deal with you but if you don't appear to have it they dismiss you, write you off.

CV     This is very, very true. This is the point I'm making. It appears that I do not have power at the moment, that my position in politics gives the ANC some credibility and therefore they will do anything they possibly can to keep me in politics. But as far as I'm concerned I've been rejected from the Afrikaner people and it's a fact I have to face, there's no doubt about it, and the Afrikaner have rejected the FF's efforts because we could not deliver and we could not deliver because of the ANC's stalling tactics and because of the numerical strength within the majority party at the moment. Those are the reasons. I must accept the fact that my people still want self-determination. They are not sure exactly what kind of self-determination they want. We in the FF have proposed a certain package deal. That package deal apparently has not really impressed the Afrikaner people so we will have to go back from the FF and we will have to go into the Afrikanerdom and say look here, is this what you want? What do you want us to do now? That is the way we must go.

     Can I quickly go through this? Just to give you an idea.

POM     Sure.

CV     Again this is in Afrikaans:-

Ø     Volkstaat impracticability - 31%.

Ø     Division of Afrikaners - 30%.

Ø     The FF only serves a minority. We are interested in only the volkstaat and the volkstaat they will not have, that means we won't have enough role in the rest of the politics – 30%.

Ø     Outmodedness – 29%.

Ø     We do not have a clear policy – 28%

Ø     Division within the political party itself – 24%.

     So those are the important aspects as to why we have not really achieved a lot.

POM     31% agree that that's a very strong reason for your failure, it's not that they're agreeing with the statement, they're saying these are the reasons why you didn't succeed. OK.

CV     Yes. Then another very important point is when it came to priorities, one of the reasons why we have failed, I have given it to you, I have said lack of focus on socio-economic events and I also said self-determination is not important, not practicable at the moment. Now just look, those are the priorities out of ten given by the group that were subjected to the analysis.

POM     Schlemmer's analysis?

CV     Yes. This is the DP's priority and this is the FF's priority, of my own people, not the party, the supporters. They had a group of 150 carefully selected all over the country within Afrikaner centres, traditional Afrikaner centres and so on. Crime, the highest priority.

POM     Now when it says DP, these are Afrikaners who voted for the DP?

CV     Yes.

POM     OK.

CV     Now look at this, it is the same situation, also FF and DP agree crime is the biggest priority but the FF says self-determination is. We missed the target. Then standards in education, second with both, so all of us agree with that. Job creation, there we're slightly lower down, the DP is still very high but the average of the group said 9.2% so where the group says 9.2% is a high priority then the FF people say 8.8%, so this is where we started having problems. Now let me switch over and you will find that there you get self-determination. 8.6% by the FF –

POM     Supporters.

CV     You see, so self-determination was low down on the wishing list of the priority list of the whole situation and we were running the idea of self-determination as a policy and the Afrikaner was saying, look here, self-determination is important but there are many, many more important aspects such as crime, such as standards in education, such as job creation, such as economic growth, etc., so the FF have concentrated on the wrong issues and that has caused this whole problem. I just wanted to give you a bit more about Markdata. I just wanted to show you this too. The images of the political parties, now as far as we're concerned we have a slightly better image than the NP.

POM     Among Afrikaners as a whole?

CV     Amongst Afrikaners as a whole, but we compare badly with the DP and what particularly worries us is this, out of ten if you say do we have a future in politics, three out of ten say the FF has a future in politics. This is the most worrying factor that came from the survey, so that alone forces us to carefully look at our whole approach, to rethink the whole concept of self-determination, to rethink our whole political axis that we have so far approached.

POM     It would seem to me, and this is as a complete outsider, that the first thing that you have to do is to unite your party, that if you can't heal the internal divisions that then this perception that you don't have a future in politics will grow.

CV     Unite the party or if I can't unite the party then break up the party and join up with the Afrikaner people that have given this and accept their priorities from a party political point of view, then we will come back to be a relevant factor in politics. We have become irrelevant in politics because we concentrated on the lower priorities of the wishing list of the Afrikaner voters.

     This is also something that I have to show you. If you look at self-determination then there's a comparison between the FF, the right wing, AEB, Conservative Party, etc., the NP and the DP. Now from this 70% of the whole group says that Afrikaners should have more powers countrywide, which is a very strong indication that this is the case. Comparable to that the FF has said 90%, of the FF regulars, and 100% of the right wing regulars. So the right wing and the FF are very strong on this issue that countrywide we should have more powers.

POM     What does that mean? More powers like?

CV     Self-determination powers. Then it was carried on lower down and what is also important is to realise when you come to self-determination and you ask the question as to should that self-determination be a territorial part of a province, then only 27% of the total say yes. But what is also worrying is that only 35% of the FF say yes and 42% of the right wing parties say yes. So this is more powers to cultural bodies. There you have 30% of the total group and the FF 50% and the right wing 58%. On some points, therefore 70%, 90%, 100%.

POM     This is that more power countrywide for –

CV     So this is proof that the concept of self-determination is acceptable to the Afrikaner but the way the FF has developed –

POM     But not in the context of what you've been articulating.

CV     That is the point, that has not been accepted. I don't think the rest is detailed, but it has all been summed up, this is very short.

POM     In the letter, but it's very to the point.

CV     I can't give a lot of detail to the Deputy President. In any case I can't really give the opinion poll to the ANC but I have to give this to him in order to get him to negotiate with us to say will they accept the FF in future as a voice speaking for the Afrikaners and under what conditions on the issue of minority rights and self-determination.

POM     Do you feel that your case has been bolstered in any way recently by the call for 24 leading intellectuals ranging right across the board?

CV     You see one of the very problems in the quest for self-determination, it was the FF that started off, let us say, born from the right wing organisations, etc., then moved into the FF's more central position in politics and we in the FF have been advocating this but we were shouted down by the NP and the press didn't really support us in this whole situation. Now all of a sudden – another point, the academics refrained from really expressing their views in this regard.

POM     But you were kind of right wing and part of the unwashed masses.

CV     In 1996 when the FF announced its approach towards the Northern Cape as a volkstaat and so on there were some academics that came out very cautiously supporting this whole idea but they then refrained. Then they kept out of this whole thing until recently when this conference, the one that I've given you, when that thing took place a number of academics participated in that thing and then also Buthelezi participated, he made the keynote address in that whole situation. Then after that a very important thing started to develop and that is the academics started to come out of principle, not politically, that they are furthering a matter of principle. Breyten Breytenbach will not support my political party, my political views, so where previously the whole idea of self-determination and minority rights were advocated from a political platform, now the academic platform has also been introduced and that is why I say it is very, very important. I don't think they will stop this, the thing is going to grow and grow and grow. What is now also important is that within the press, they read this and the whole idea of self-determination now becomes more credible.

POM     There have been articles that say issue that declaration.

CV     That's a point. That has kicked off some right wing in this regard and this has highlighted the correctness of the concept of minority rights and self-determination which previously was suspect because we as the FF were regarded as one of the –

POM     Reactionary, anti kind of transformation and change. Now have you yet made any attempt to contact that group and say we ought to sit down together because we're really talking much the same things and we ought to work up on our respective roles?

CV     Recently one of the groups, for example one chap in Stellenbosch, he phoned me and he said, "Look here, I have to take up this fact this afternoon in a radio programme on the issue of minority rights, on the statement", and then he asked me certain aspects of my views and he included them that afternoon during the discussion. I cannot say that the group of academics are now supporting the FF but there is some complementary role.

POM     Complementary role and it's a matter of working out.

CV     But now, what is important now? What is important? It's for the FF, and this is my arduous task, and that is how to get the FF to adjust their approach policy strategy in order to get these people on board and jointly with us move towards the idea of – even if it means, because none of those academics are prepared to say something good about the volkstaat in the North Western Cape, they don't accept the idea of a volkstaat. But this is the point that I've been making in my party ever since the 1996 constitution. I said, and this is what Max van der Stoel(?)who is the High Commissioner for minority rights in Europe, when I saw him on this whole issue, said to me when I explained to him the whole policy of the FF and I said to him, "Now please tell me, am I wrong? Is there internationally anything that is not acceptable in the whole policy?" And he then said, "One thing that I would like to give you advice on and that is don't go for the maximum self-determination objectives immediately. Start with the many, many aspects of self-determination which will be more acceptable within the context of SA's historic development, apartheid, etc., and introduce them to the degree that you now get confidence in the concept of self-determination." In other words start with the more weak forms of self-determination, create confidence in self-determination and then you can move on towards the stronger forms of self-determination, whereas the FF had said, "We want a volkstaat in the North Western Cape", this is scratch, bull, nothing less. Then the Afrikaners turned around on us and they said, "No this is not what we want. We would now want to be part of the new SA, we want to have a great influence on political issues in SA." So we need to adjust as a party, we have to adapt or die otherwise we have a problem.

POM     In fact in the EU you have two processes going on simultaneously. One is for integration, more countries coming in to the EU and the other one is creating a Europe of more or less autonomous regions, so you're breaking down national boundaries in favour of regional autonomies within the larger structure of the EU so it's really in one sense creating the framework within which minorities of different persuasions can all work together across national boundaries.

CV     Yes you're right.

POM     I mention getting together with these guys for the simple reason that the DP are so aggressive these days that before you know it they will have collared these 24 and said, "Hey, we're all civilised gentlemen here in the DP, we all speak English the way English should be spoken."

CV     What is now a new development that is taking place right now, yesterday in parliament the DP started switching – there was acknowledgement of minority rights. The DP used to be the champions of individual rights and last year when we entered into an agreement, a logistic agreement with the DP regarding the election, we were considering a stronger agreement but they refused to because of the fact that they at that stage reckoned that they would still remain with their higher emphasis on individual rights. Now all of a sudden having gained many Afrikaner votes they realise that they have to acknowledge the idea of minority rights so that means within the DP now we get voices asking for minority rights. Yesterday we had two speeches in parliament from DPs, so this is a new development inside SA. Now again I have a problem with my party because if I within my party mention support or co-operation with the DP then I will be shouted down and they will say you now become a liberal.

POM     Well then there are people within your party who are political dinosaurs, they're looking for extinction.

CV     Exactly, that's right.

POM     I just bumped into Tertius Delport downstairs.

CV     It's him, he was one.

POM     And he said, "Yesterday I made a speech in parliament on minority rights." Tertius is one of the people I've been interviewing since 1990.

CV     Coming to where we met you, I asked Tertius, I said, "The speech that you made yesterday, was that shown to Tony beforehand?" And he said yes, he said he gave it to Tony and Tony then said, "Why do you give this to me?" Tertius said, "I want you to read it because I want to have your blessing on this." And Tony read it and he said, "Yes, I've got nothing against it." So the whole concept of minority rights – so within the opposition parties we now have the DP moving towards the issue of minority rights, we have the IFP which feels very strongly about minority rights, we have even got within the NP voices in favour of minority rights and we have the FF's important drive towards minority rights, and also the AEB, Cassie Aucamp, is also in favour of it. So the point I'm making is I think there is a great opportunity for co-operation between opposition parties now all embracing the idea of collective rights. We still disagree on the detail of the application of collective rights but at least we have made progress on the issue that we've now accepted this.

POM     Before minority rights were always 'propagandised', I'll use that word, by the ANC as being just code words for protection of white privilege and power. The fact is that the world has moved on to different conceptions of what democracy and rights are all about and the concept of minority of rights is no longer connected with or associated with the protection of privilege and power for any individual group, but a recognition that their differences must be accepted if diversity is to flourish alongside unity. My concern would be that if I saw the DP suddenly saying minority rights, let's move in that direction, I would say, gee, do you know what? The DP are trying to cut the remainder of my base of support from underneath my feet.

CV     Now remember there might be a bigger part of my base with the DP at the moment than what I have left over.

POM     That's right.

CV     So it's not impossible that if the AEB and the FA and the NP and the DP all agree on the issue of collective rights then I see a form of alliance possible but I cannot speak on this, I have no authority to speak on it. I see personally a basis for co-operation with some opposition parties.

POM     Now the question would be: if the ANC only responds to power, that's what they say it's all about, they have the power and everybody else doesn't have the power, so in a sense they can say go ahead, form whatever alliances you want and cry your hearts out about minority rights but we've got two thirds and we, practically speaking, can afford to ignore you because our constituency hasn't the slightest interest in minority rights. What leverages of power - ?

CV     There is one reason that I have to add to this list which is not on this and that is that the June 1999 situation was at that stage the poorest point for the FF to make progress on the issue of self-determination. In other words the time was not right. You know in the political world if the time is right for a concept then it runs, if the time is not right it dries away and this is what happened in the June election.

POM     I come back to the issue of power, what power can you exert over, even as a collective group of parties, exert over the ANC to make them heed you if they themselves are concentrating more and more on stretching their tentacles of power all over.

CV     I will have to accept by leaving politics, then I regain my power. As long as I stay in parliament I become the useful idiot of the ANC. The moment I leave parliament, which I will probably do, then I start applying pressure on the ANC because being out of parliament they realise that I am not going to give up my obligation towards my people and by leaving parliament I then demonstrate to them that I have no confidence that within the political system of the parliament we will make any advances.

POM     Just one or two questions, not directly related to the current situation of self-determination, that I would like to ask you and they don't in fact directly affect you but I would just like to know what your response in a situation might have been. I met with Mr de Klerk yesterday, and I have gone through his autobiography, for one and a half hours, his brother by the way had a heart valve replaced yesterday afternoon, but when I was reading his autobiography it struck me that on the one hand you appeared to have this very sophisticated politician and on the other hand you appeared to have a man of extreme naiveté. Now he recounts an incident in January 1990, so he's been President for two months, a month before he released Mandela and he's on vacation and he gets a call from General Magnus Malan who says, "I've got to come and see you straight away on a matter of extreme urgency." De Klerk says, "Well it's my holiday, can't it wait till I come back", and he says, "No, I've got to see you right now." So Malan flew down to him and saw him and said, "Listen, I have just discovered the existence of a covert unit within my Defence department called the Civil Co-operation Bureau which I understand has been up to all kinds of illegal activities."

CV     When was that?

POM     This was in 1990, January 1990. Now if I were President my first reaction would be: Magnus, how long have you been Minister for Defence? And you're telling me that there's been a secret unit within your department that you've had no knowledge of at all? Hey, you're fired. You don't know what's going on in your department. This is the document of ministerial responsibility, you're the man in charge. Now let's see what we'll do about it but you're gone as Minister of Defence; rather than saying, as De Klerk's response was, "My God, that's shocking, what do we do about it?" He said, "I believed him, I took him at his word, he didn't know about it." But the question is that he should have known about it (a), and it undermined - one of the things I don't say I admire about the Brits because they are almost too willing sometimes to put their heads right to the guillotine, but it's on this question of ministerial responsibility and the example I always use is that of Lord Carrington who was Foreign Secretary at the time Argentina invaded the Falklands and he walked into the House of Commons the day after the invasion and said, "My department wasn't paying sufficient attention to the movement of Argentinean warships, or intelligence being fed back to me was not sufficient, I should have been aware of what was happening. I resign. I take full responsibility." And they say, "Hey old boy, what a gentleman." If you were President what would you have said to General Malan?

CV     I doubt this whole thing. It is impossible to create units within the defence force without the Minister of Defence knowing, and it's impossible in my view with the previous system of the State Security Council to have carried out the rather big Civil Co-operation Bureau without the then President knowing about this. Rubbish, absolute rubbish. I don't believe it.

POM     Now you don't believe that De Klerk knew or that De Klerk wasn't ever in the inner loop?

CV     Magnus and De Klerk should have known about it.

POM     Well Magnus definitely.

CV     Yes for sure, but both for sure. I have no doubt about it.

POM     But if you were President would you have said, well thank you for bringing me that information and I will expect your resignation to be on my desk tomorrow?

CV     As a matter of fact considering what came out about the CCB I would have resigned myself as President. I would have said it's something I should have known about.

POM     Do you find this, and it seems to be a pervasive attitude in the NP whether having been in power for too long, I haven't exactly been able to grasp a reason for it, but that the attitude of I didn't know therefore I'm not accountable, as distinct from I should have known, I am the person in charge, the buck, as Harry Truman would say, stops on my desk. I take full responsibility because that's why I'm in the position I'm in. It's not a matter of saying, my God, if I knew about it I would have done something but I didn't know about it. That's not the question. The question is you should have known about it.

CV     He should have known. As a matter of fact the whole State Security Council should have known about this. The SSC was a sort of a cabinet committee on safety and security and to me it's unbelievable that they could have an organisation such as the CCB, spend millions on that without it becoming known. It's not possible.

POM     That was one of the questions.

CV     Remember at that stage I had been out of the defence force since 1985 so in my time there was no such thing as the CCB.

POM     It was created after that, it was created during the later years of PW Botha.

CV     1986/87.

POM     And PW Botha and Magnus Malan – Malan was his protégé so to speak, succeeded him as Minister of Defence if I'm correct, right? Botha went from Minister of Defence to Prime Minister to State President. The other thing is that looking back at –

CV     Can I just say, there is some comparison between the present establishment of the so-called Scorpions in SA and the CCB. From what I gathered the whole idea of the CCB was the answer on the changes of the ANC after 1985 when they took the war to the townships. The strategic answer from Malan and company was to create the CCB and I think this is understandable why they did this. All I am saying is there is some comparison because at the moment we have a specific strategic situation about crime and here they are, they create now organisations in which they have intelligence and investigation and prosecution, prosecutors and everything all together. I have my doubts about this whole thing but let's wait and see.

POM     Again it's going to be made accountable directly to the President, not going to be a line function of a department.

CV     It's taken away from the departments and it is centralised and that is the beginning of the misuse of power which happened in the CCB.

POM     In perspective, your assessment of the various role players you've dealt with from the negotiation process through today, who has impressed you either as being good negotiators and then in parliament good people to deal with? Who did you have trust in whom you would no longer have trust in, saying that person misled me?

CV     I want to say immediately that the Afrikaner people and the people responsible for negotiation of the changeover in 1994, the Afrikaner people found themselves with the poorest and the weakest negotiating team that you could think imaginable. Roelf Meyer and Wessels and all those people, Kobie Coetsee, they were absolutely useless negotiators.

POM     Why didn't De Klerk put in people like Pik Botha, people who had gone through the negotiations in Namibia who were experienced, who had built a reputation for themselves at the negotiations?

CV     You should ask this question to Jannie Geldenhuys. Jannie Geldenhuys participated in many negotiations in South West Africa. I refused to. I said I would wage the war and he could do the negotiations. Even when I was Chief of the Defence Force and he was the Chief of the Army I left the assistance to Foreign Affairs in the diplomatic negotiations, especially on the Cuban issue, I left that to Jannie Geldenhuys and he will be able to tell you I have no confidence at all in Pik Botha. I think he's the most useless man in SA, so I have no confidence in him at all.

POM     What team should he have put in if you had to pick his team?

CV     He had none.

POM     He had none?

CV     He had none, I repeat that. I think some other people would have said – but even a man such as the one that you've seen this morning, Tertius Delport, he could have done better and Hernus Kriel could have done better. They were so poor, that's all. Now you asked me who was a good negotiator. I would say if you now take it from the position of negotiating, I would say the DP at that stage had already done pretty well. The most excellent negotiators, unscrupulous negotiators, were within the ANC. I watched them, how they operated this. At stages they were running teams of negotiators and they were busy negotiating now and three of them would get up and go outside and go and have a rest and three others would come in. Joe Slovo and Chaskalson and all those people and that's how they switched over the teams. They never allowed their people to become tired.

POM     So they had depth? Like a football team, they could draw people off the benches and put them in and say they're just as good as the people on the field.

CV     Yes, exactly, they were so well prepared that they could do this. So the biggest failure of De Klerk was his negotiating. It was a complete failure.

POM     Was that, do you think, due in part to his mistaken belief that these guys are going to come back from exile and what do they know about government or negotiations, we'll wipe the floor with them?

CV     Yes well, let me tell you of Magnus Malan when he was still minister. He said one day to the defence force, "You're not to worry, we will deal with these people before breakfast." That was his attitude towards the ANC and this is the situation on amnesty too. You should talk to the ANC, talk to Matthews Phosa, go to Matthews Phosa and talk to him about negotiating on the issue of amnesty and he will tell you how the political fibre of the negotiators of the government just cracked up.

POM     Well I am told, in fact by Niel Barnard because I asked him about this issue of amnesty, and I have been talking to Kobie Coetsee and I've been getting –

CV     Talk to Van der Merwe, the ex-policeman.

POM     Johan? How do I get hold of him?

CV     I tell you what, you ask Piet Uys in Pretoria, he will certainly have the telephone number, Colonel Piet Uys, my man in Pretoria.

POM     Yes with Barnard. I have been talking to Kobie Coetsee who has such a different recollection of events and version of events that is so at odds with everybody else's that I've just put one big question mark.

CV     Kobie Coetsee? Oh he's a weakling.

POM     His version of any event doesn't square with anybody else's. You could have eleven people who were at a meeting and ten would say all the same thing happened at the meeting and he would, "Oh no, no, no, that's not what happened at all."

CV     You know I believe that God had punished us with the quality of NP negotiators and participating …  but not only NP, I also have to refer to the Conservative Party. You know I came from the farm, I had no knowledge about constitutions, I had no knowledge about politics, I had no knowledge about negotiations and I was brought in and from the outside I could see that the NP and the CP made no progress. One day in parliament I made a speech and I referred to the Kempton Park negotiations that did not produce anything for self-determination of the Afrikaner people. Coming back I received a note from Dene Smuts from the DP saying that the reason why the right made no progress within the negotiating in Kempton Park, just two words, 'Fanie Jacobs'. He was a negotiator and he was so unpleasant in his inter-personal relationships during this negotiation process that he ditched the whole concept of self-determination for the Afrikaner. That's according to Dene Smuts. I wasn't there, remember.

POM     Fanie? What's his name?

CV     Fanie Jacobs. He was a CP member and I then eventually landed up in negotiating with the ANC. I was eventually selected to negotiate and I was not trained for this kind of thing. I was not geared for this, it's not what I came to politics for. This was really a problem, within the NP and the CP we had no negotiators. So that answers your question, what I think of the negotiators.

POM     I was going to just mention to you on the question of amnesty that Niel Barnard said to me, well I'll tell you what happened, at the Pretoria Minute, after the Pretoria Minute there had been agreement among those present that there would be blanket amnesty.

CV     You know why that was? When the ANC considered whether they could dare to come to SA for negotiations they were very concerned about being arrested when they put foot on SA soil and they then pressurised the NP into accepting general amnesty right at the beginning. The NP, Kobie Coetsee, then said no, no, when you deal with justice subjects such an amnesty you have to be very careful and you have to declare openly what you are applying amnesty for. That was the beginning of total …  Eventually he said, and then they had after the Pretoria Minute, some 4000 people given amnesty etc., they had the option then of accepting amnesty for the whole process, offered by the ANC. Then it carried on and on and on and eventually at the end of the negotiating tables, before the -

POM     Now who offered it on behalf of the ANC?

CV     Matthews Phosa for the ANC. Eventually at the end of the negotiation teams, after the agreements had been signed which was actually the interim constitution, the NP turned around and they said, "Now look here let us go for general amnesty", and then the ANC said, "Oh no. When you talk about amnesty we have to be very careful about this, we have to have all the details as to why", and that was the beginning of the TRC. So we could have been spared the whole agony of this whole TRC and the damage that was done to reconciliation by the TRC.

POM     To add one step to what you've said, you've essentially verified what I have been told by other people, is that Niel Barnard says there had been an agreement reached in the Pretoria Minute on blanket amnesty and he said, "I'll tell you why, because I, Niel Barnard, Fanie van der Merwe, Joe Slovo and Mac Maharaj, were sent into a side room to draw up a statement that would cover blanket amnesty across the board for everyone, and we drafted a statement and we took it out and when Kobie Coetsee saw the statement he went berserk. He hit the roof and said no, no, no, this can't be done, individuals must apply for each detail. So the blanket amnesty that we had drawn up was dropped and we had the Indemnity Act of 1990 with its application forms and that's when it happened." According to him when the ANC took power (a) they resented having to fill out these forms and detail everything and said what's good for the goose is good for the gander, and (b) it had become a different priority on their political agenda, they needed amnesty in 1990 in order to get the people into the country, when they were the government they didn't need amnesty for anything. So while it was moving from the top to the bottom on their list, on the NP side it had moved from the bottom to the top. Power had changed. But he said this thing could have been gone and dealt with in 1990 in that room, on that day and Kobie blew it with his insistence that it had to follow this kind of procedure.

     If you had to do one thing over again, looking back, what would you do differently in that negotiating, when you were negotiating, when you decided in the end not to go the resistance route but rather to form a political party and try to negotiate? Even in the last four and a half years, five and a half in parliament, what would you point to as the one thing you would do differently if you had the opportunity to do it all over again?

CV     In 1994 when I was in the Volksfront, 1993/94, I would have eliminated the AWB from any form of paramilitary role. In other words I would have excluded them from my military potential. Secondly, I would have taken the military pressure in 1994 further than what I have done because in 1994 I was in a position to apply a lot of pressure on the government, which was then the NP, and on the ANC, but I was caught up in the unpredictable or the unforeseeable misconduct of the AWB. So that really ditched me. My forces from the farmers were so well trained and so well disciplined and I had the uncontrollable element added. I would have eradicated them, even if I had to put them in jail I would have put them in jail.

POM     You're not supposed to use words like 'eradicated' these days!

CV     Oh all right, what I mean is I would have neutralised them.

POM     I'm joking.

CV     I could have made more use of military pressure but I couldn't because of the AWB. So in 1993 when I first had the storming of the Bastille, that 25th June attack on the negotiating centre at Kempton Park, that day I should have insisted on the AWB being demobilised and I should have insisted on only the farmers. Rather sit with 10,000 people less than have 10,000 troublemakers of the AWB. That is the one thing that I would have done differently.

     The second thing that I would have done differently, I would have negotiated in the open. For many reasons we decided between the ANC and the FF that negotiations would be done in a confidential manner and that had given the ANC the opportunity to keep on coming back and forth and back and forth and delay the whole negotiating process after 1996. I think in future it is better to negotiate in the open so that the people and the press and everybody knows what you are negotiating about and if you fail then it becomes clear why you've failed, if you succeed it also becomes clear why you succeeded. That had given the ANC the opportunity to bugger us around in the whole situation of negotiations. So that's something else that I would have changed.

     Then the third point, I would have done more to keep my military potential after the switchover in 1994. When I decided in 1994 to go for a peaceful solution there were at least 50% of my military forces at that stage who were so disappointed because they really believed in the military solution. In making that decision I lost them and if you really want some form of freedom you will never get it with the totalitarian approach of the ANC unless you have a pistol in your hand. I've lost my pistol.

POM     You sound suspiciously like the ANC, I think Cyril Ramaphosa, on the one side you negotiate but you keep the threat of the gun not too far away. Again it's about power.

CV     Well there's an old story about the lamb and the wolf, they had an argument and then the wolf kills the lamb and the basis of the story is if you're a lamb and you face a wolf then you don't go into an argument without having a pistol in your hand. You see what I'm getting at? And I've lost my pistol in 1994 because of the whole situation as it was. It's easy to recreate the pistol though, I can do it. The problem is at that stage I could have used that pistol to achieve more at the negotiation table. Having lost it in 1994, it took the ANC only two years, up to 1996, to realise that their numerical majority power will be sufficient to keep me down, whereas if I had my pistol they probably would have treated me with more respect.

POM     Can you recreate the pistol?

CV     I'm just saying, to recreate it is easy. Whether it's wise is a different thing.

POM     I've taken an awful lot of your time. I will be back again with my questions. Every time I leave here I think of more questions.

CV     OK. You have a lot to say. The problem about the future is to press ahead. I have to, as you said, I have to either reunite my party and take them along or else I have to find another way because my whole task in life is not to keep the FF together but to get for the Afrikaner self-determination. This is my mission. The FF is only a vehicle to get self-determination.

POM     OK, thank you.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.